Are You REALLY Marketing Your Practice?

Thriving in a managed care world means it’s time for a plan!

the more deeply we’re entrenched in managed care and evolving price and distribution strategies (online eyecare products and services, for example), the more consumers buy into the notion that it’s all the same. Ah…but the more things look the same, the greater the opportunities for the outstanding, and the creative, to look different.

Think about it from the consumer’s perspective. There’s this “panel” of providers that service my “plan,” and with that plan I can go to any one of them to get what they all provide. It would seem since they are on the same panel providing the same service, and perhaps at the same (service) fee, that they provide it all the same way.

So, the consumer’s choices come down to things like: Where are you located? Or, when can I get in? Or, can I park? Not that such things aren’t important and marketable, but can you imagine a world where these are the deciding factors in who will provide a person’s healthcare?

That’s the world we’re living in. A world created by managed care, commoditization of eye care and vision products, Internet and big-box distribution, and other market forces.

And when you really think about what we seek to accomplish with marketing (differentiation), this “It’s all the same” insinuation is perhaps the greatest marketing opportunity of our lifetimes.

What Is the Key to Control?

In the first Healthcare Navigator column [September 2016 issue], we talked about the tale of two practices: How two practices a block apart, or even two doctors within the same practice, can have radically differing results. We highlighted a real example of a practice in which revenue-per-patient was $200 different between the doctors in the same practice, and concluded these types of outcomes (revenue-per-patient, capture rate, production capacity, profitability, etc.) are controllable. In the tale of two practices, one practice, or one doctor, is choosing to control this outcome and the other is not.

So, the million-dollar question, quite literally, is how do we make sure we’re the former? How do we make sure we’re controlling our outcomes rather than surrendering our outcomes to market forces we can’t control?

One answer: your marketing plan.

Dial in Your Plan

The vast majority of practice owners do not have a written plan for marketing. This is like not having a playbook for the football team. Anyone who has ever coached some ball knows that will never do.

A written marketing plan makes us deliberate about things we would not otherwise be deliberating, rather than scratching it out with a finger in the sand. Things like:

  1. What is our exact set of marketing objectives (growth in specific revenue categories, new patients, revenue-per-patient, capture rate, recall success rate, patient active rate, no-show rate, etc.)? We need the object defined before we can form the strategy and resulting initiative. These are controllable outcomes, but we need to define what we’re going to accomplish.
  2. What things do we know that patients and consumers don’t know? And what exactly are we going to teach them so they know those things? It’s one thing to talk about patient education, but what’s the exact curriculum?
  3. Who are we going to target exactly as our desired new patient? The great thing about marketing is we can decide who that is, and plan our placement, message, and offering to nail it. You can’t do that by just getting on a panel, in which case you get who you get.
  4. What are the exact initiatives we will implement inside the walls of the practice to ensure we accomplish that curriculum? People talk about patient education, but it’s time to get much more deliberate about the what (we teach), by whom (to do the teaching), to whom (we teach it), and at what point (in the production cycle) it is taught. Every time. This marketing (teaching) needs to become as standard a practice as the actual patient care itself.
  5. What vehicles will we use outside the walls of the practice to teach these things to nonreferred consumers?
  6. What will we budget, and where will we place that budget? (By the way, spending money on marketing is overrated, but it’s necessary to some extent.) Who will get this done, and by what date will this be allocated?
  7. What unique selling points will we promote to make our offering incomparable?
  8. How will we measure and report outcomes back to the team and respond?

We could go on and on, but this is a great start.

Most practice teams can come up with some amazing creative ideas. What limits growth is not so much “Do we have the ideas?” as it is “Do we have a plan that ensures, every time, that targeted people (patients and consumers) know what we want them to know in order for our patients and our practice to achieve an exact set of object outcomes?”

There is no way we can be as deliberate about our marketing as we need to be without having a written plan.

Plan the work, work the plan. If you don’t have a written marketing plan, make it a priority and get it done. I can’t begin to tell you the difference it will make in your outcomes. And, yes, we control those outcomes!

—Tom Bowen